Features & Interviews TNB News

Body converter series: recycling sector

13 May 2021 #Features & Interviews #TNB News

In the second instalment of our body converter series, TNB looks at the demands placed on companies working within the evolving recycling sector.

We have previously looked at waste collection and the sector’s focus on reducing emissions – including retrofitting electrified powertrains – but recycling poses additional challenges. These include the complexity of collections, which is driven by the increasingly diverse waste streams required to increase efficiency and drive down the overall cost of recycling.

For example, recycling trucks may require a plastic/can press, card press and sealed storage compartments for each waste stream. Depending on individual councils and their recycling policy, this can also include food waste. Body builders are embracing the challenges and providing a range of solutions and technical innovations that are tailored for the recycling sector, while also combating the additional question of payload versus bodyweight.

J&B Recycling has recently adopted five of the most technically advanced Mercedes-Benz trucks in the UK. Alongside safety systems such as active braking, blind spot camera and rearguard technologies, the 26-tonne low-entry Econics are fitted with Dennis Eagle bodies and Terberg Matec UK lifts, which include a dynamic weighing system capable of relaying real-time data on vehicle loading straight to the operator’s main office.

“Our fleet replacement programme is designed to avoid service disruption to our clients, while also protecting our business against the risk of spiralling costs,” said Matt Tyrie, operations director for J&B, which recycles 99% of the more than 200,000 tonnes of commercial and general waste that it processes each year. “This investment will put us in a strong position as lockdown eases and business waste starts to increase, especially in the hospitality sector – future-proofing our fleet was a key imperative.”

Bin weight data can help improve recycling efficiency and optimise future changes to waste collection schedules. Simon Hill, cleansing and fleet services manager for Exeter City Council, which operates such a system across its fleet of RCVs, explained, “We have a successful commercial waste operation, but it would really help us to know the costs of collection and disposal. We charge a basic rate per bin at the moment, but the bin weighing system will give us a clearer idea of the costs.

“If we know where and when bins are likely to be heavier, we can manage our resources more efficiently,” he continued. “For instance, garden waste is obviously a very seasonal collection and at times can be very heavy. A third initiative is being able to tell commercial customers what happens to their waste. This will help them understand how good they are at recycling and where they can improve. A lot of organisations take this very seriously. It’s gone from being a feather in the cap to being an ethical responsibility that’s expected of them.”

Companies who operate nationally operate a wide range of chassis and body types. For example, refuse and recycling specialist Biffa operates more than 1,500 vehicles across the UK. The fleet includes 26-tonne compactor bodies, skip loaders and hookloaders, three- and four-axle configurations and steering rear axle options depending on duties and locations – vehicle operating in more urban areas require greater manoeuvrability.

While body requirements vary regionally, they are designed to work towards common goals: enhanced efficiency and the flexibility to meet the demands of complex recycling operations. Aberdeenshire Council, for example, utilised new Farid Hillend Engineering compactor bodies when it updated its fleet of eight vehicles last year.

The 6×2 trucks are now a full 300mm longer than the outgoing models, with a 4,500mm wheelbase. The extra length was specified to enable the council to fit a larger pod in front of the main compactor body, designed to carry recyclable food waste. An additional innovation was the fitment of Whale Tankers vacuum water tanks and high-performance jetting, which enables the vehicles to clean roadside drainage gullies.

“Our communities are really embracing the recycling of food waste and, as a result of the increased volumes, we needed larger pods on the RCVs,” said the council’s fleet manager, Paul Gray. “Meanwhile, we’ve made efficiency gains by increasing the size of the gulley emptier because it can stay out for longer on each journey and make fewer trips back to base.”

In response to increased demand for food waste collections, Burton-on-Trent-based Willshee Waste & Recycling operates a toploader specifically designed to segregate food and glass waste. This is becoming more commonplace as the benefits of splitting waste streams become better understood.  To further demonstrate the diverse nature and regional variance of recycling policy, Craig Willshee, fleet manager for the company, said, “We have seen a number of Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants open in our region. Food waste collected is sent to one of three local AD plants, where it is processed to produce electricity, which is then supplied to the National Grid.”

Although a challenge for all body builders working within the sector, the balance of payload versus weight is being addressed through the adoption of alternative materials for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes, in particular. Polypropylene, for example, is being utilised due to its robust construction, which can withstand intensive daily cleaning, is resistant to corrosion and is leakproof – perfect for sealing of food waste.

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